ATP and NO Dually Control Migration of Microglia to Nerve Lesions

Dev Neurobiol. 2009 Jan;69(1):60-72. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20689.


Microglia migrate rapidly to lesions in the central nervous system (CNS), presumably in response to chemoattractants including ATP released directly or indirectly by the injury. Previous work on the leech has shown that nitric oxide (NO), generated at the lesion, is both a stop signal for microglia at the lesion and crucial for their directed migration from hundreds of micrometers away within the nerve cord, perhaps mediated by a soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC). In this study, application of 100 microM ATP caused maximal movement of microglia in leech nerve cords. The nucleotides ADP, UTP, and the nonhydrolyzable ATP analog AMP-PNP (adenyl-5'-yl imidodiphosphate) also caused movement, whereas AMP, cAMP, and adenosine were without effect. Both movement in ATP and migration after injury were slowed by 50 microM reactive blue 2 (RB2), an antagonist of purinergic receptors, without influencing the direction of movement. This contrasted with the effect of the NO scavenger cPTIO (2-(4-carboxyphenyl)-4,4,5,5-teramethylimidazoline-oxyl-3-oxide), which misdirected movement when applied at 1 mM. The cPTIO reduced cGMP immunoreactivity without changing the immunoreactivity of eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase), which accompanies increased NOS activity after nerve cord injury, consistent with involvement of sGC. Moreover, the sGC-specific inhibitor LY83583 applied at 50 microM had a similar effect, in agreement with previous results with methylene blue. Taken together, the experiments support the hypothesis that ATP released directly or indirectly by injury activates microglia to move, whereas NO that activates sGC directs migration of microglia to CNS lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / pharmacology*
  • Aminoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Cyclic N-Oxides / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Leeches
  • Microglia / drug effects*
  • Microglia / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nucleotides / pharmacology
  • Trauma, Nervous System / pathology*
  • Trauma, Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Triazines


  • Aminoquinolines
  • Cyclic N-Oxides
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Imidazoles
  • Nucleotides
  • Triazines
  • 2-phenyl-4,4,5,5-tetramethylimidazoline-1-oxyl-3-oxide
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Cibacron Blue F 3GA
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • 6-anilino-5,8-quinolinedione
  • Cyclic GMP